Jewish tradition, the prayer system in particular, would have us focus, amidst all the tumult and challenges we face, on blessings of what/who is okay and well.
Left to our own tendencies, we are inclined to take much for granted and allow our attention to dwell more on what is wrong. That is only natural, even if it is not helpful in terms of energy level or perspective on life.
Ironically, left to our own imagination, we may identify pursuit of happiness as a goal unto itself, an antidote to any sadness and upset we may face.
For anyone yearning for some happiness, I welcome you to the Hebrew month of Adar, beginning Friday, February 4. The slogan for this month is: Be Happy! It’s Adar. The sages comment: when Adar arrives, we abound in simcha…happiness and joy! Indeed, Adar’s arrival coincides with days growing in light. We have just celebrated one of 4 Jewish New Years, TuBishvat, the new year for trees and nature. Spring and sprouting of new life is not far away.
This year the joy of Adar is doubled because we are in a leap year in the Jewish calendar (remember how early Rosh Hashanah was this year, 5771? Well, we will welcome 5772, the next Days of Awe, almost a month later, the end of September). In the Hebrew calendar, instead of adding a day in a leap year, we add a month at the end of the monthly calendar year. Since Adar is the last month (and Nisan, the first month, giving us Passover and Jewish beginnings as a people), we add an extra month of Adar, an extra month of happiness!
And what is the happiness we associate with Adar? The arrival of Purim: the holiday of laughter and joy and the story of Mordecai and Esther prevailing over the wicked Haman (Boo! Hiss!), who conspired to destroy the Jews of ancient Persia (How ironic that Persia i.e. Iran, is so threatening to our survival, yet again!). I know that I am getting ahead of myself since Purim is celebrated in the second month of Adar, in a leap year, putting it in March, yet I cannot overlook how nice it is to have an extra month of Adar to remind us to find increasing happiness in our lives, especially when times are difficult in so many ways and for so many people.
Paradoxically, the happiness of Purim, which generates such joy for the months of Adar, emerged out of real world problems and solutions described in the Book of Esther, that left us stunned and awed by gifts of life overshadowing fears of death and the sadness of human cruelty in all its forms.
Jewish tradition associates happiness not as a goal, as a means to escape sadness and ignore problems. Rather, we derive happiness, first by forcing ourselves to notice whatever/whoever is good in our lives, be they significant or easily overlooked. Next, we generate happiness by consciously, mindfully and steadfastly doing as much good as we can: seeing good, speaking of good, and actively pursuing a life of mitzvah. We commit ourselves to doing what is right, what is kind, caring, compassionate and serving God by treating each other as God’s Countenance…each of us vessels and vehicles of God in how we make moments in peoples’ lives blessings.
So, in the happiness of Adar is the opportunity to refocus on the partnership of Torah and Mitzvah, that we learn what we must to know that we are responsible for changing the energy in this world, that there be no more Hamans (Boo! Hiss!) or Pharaohs, neither in ourselves, nor in the governance of our world, to whatever degrees we can influence that.
Enjoy this leap year associated with 5771, and I pray we each find increasing happiness in our feelings of worthiness, as we see what is good, say it, as well, and devote our time to our partnership with U KNOW HU in bringing blessings into the lives of those with whom we share life’s journey.
BE HAPPY! IT’S ADAR!